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6,921 Viking River Cruise Reviews

I enjoyed being on the boat, watching the scenery go by and falling to sleep with the movement. Almost everything else was a bust. Being an experienced traveler, I understand and expect that I will be required to suck up some inconviences ... Read More
I enjoyed being on the boat, watching the scenery go by and falling to sleep with the movement. Almost everything else was a bust. Being an experienced traveler, I understand and expect that I will be required to suck up some inconviences and disapointments on a vacation, but when this is true everyday in some way or another, there is a problem. I am an avid gardener and cook. One reason I like to go to Europe is for the very quality of the food. The cruise food was good for breakfast and that spread was incredible. I can't say as much for the other meals. I would say, if you like Applebees, you will probably enjoy this cruise food. I know from experience that I get thirsty when I eat processed foods and I was very thirsty after eating the cruise meals. One meal was particularly disappointing. As we were approaching Budapest, the Hungarian chief prepared what was called goulash. What was served was chips of beef covered in a sauce. Hungarian goulash is a soup. The cruise included free beer and wine with the meals. These were poured from Viking labeled bottles. These products were clearly inferior. While it was, initially, just another "suck it up" irritation, it became truely abnoxious as we traveled through Germany and sampled some of the world's best beers when we were off the ship. I am not a heavy drinker, and Viking only found cost savings in my case on a single serving of beer per day. For what we paid for the trip, that was unreasonable. The outtings were short. Each excursion involved assembly in the parking lot and ussually a bus trip of 30 minutes to 2 hours. When the assembly started at 9 or ten, and concluded by getting us back on the ship by four, the tours you see pictured in the brochures are often as short as one hour. The guided tours are of mixed quality, rangeing from inciteful, fun and highly educational to a complete waste of expensive travel time. Be prepared that tips are expected everywhere on this "all inclusive" trip, including the tour guides. My most serious complaint was with the double docking. In many ports, especially in Germany, Viking only used one slip for as many as three ships, connecting the ships sideways. If you are paying extra for a balcony, it is a complete waste when this happens. The side of the ship with the most exclusive staterooms is always in the outside, but even those may be locked in when they connect three boats. You pass through the boat on the dock side, and several times the stench on that boat was bad. It was some combination of mildew and sewage. I found it very claustrophobic, but it also is a safety hazzard. There is no way off the boat through the window, only the single route though the stateroom door, then down the hall. I'm not sure how that even passes safety regulations. It would be a deathtrap in a fire and would never be allowed for a hotel or apartment. You end up spending evenings socializing with your shipmates. Every dinner you are seared at tables of 6 and 8 travelers, followed by cocktail parties in the lounge, where alcohol is additional, and is charged to your room. This can get tedious or worse. You have to feel your way around all the lifestyle, political and religious issues Americans feel so strongly about. Affluent, older, Christian, conservatives are going to find themselves most suited to this socializing. Overall, I'm glad to have gone, but we spent A LOT of money on this, and I would say it was a very poor value. We were given vouchers to apply toward a future cruise, but we chose to take half the value in cash. We might try a National Geographic cruise, but not Viking again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
A Russian Adventure The stark white and dark brown of the bark of the birch tree (Russia's national tree) stood as sentinels guarding the towering green pines in the background as we glided along the beautiful and ... Read More
A Russian Adventure The stark white and dark brown of the bark of the birch tree (Russia's national tree) stood as sentinels guarding the towering green pines in the background as we glided along the beautiful and pristine shorelines of Russian rivers. Our Russian adventure began Sept. 15, 2002 in St. Petersburg as we boarded the Viking River Cruise ship "Kirov" with some 130 passengers from United States as well as England. The 400 ft. Kirov is compact but comfortable with all the amenities needed for a pleasant trip including two bars, two dining rooms, a library, beauty salon, gift shop and sauna. Joining Joan and me on this two-week Russian adventure was a couple from Sarasota, Alice and Roger. Our travel agent had introduced us a year ago as we planned a trip through France, departing 9/11. Since then we have become good friends. The Kirov's captain and crew were Russian and the chef Austrian. The food was good and served attractively (about a B+/A-) with red or white wine served at lunch and dinner. However, we think the complimentary wine was a tad above grape juice, about 9% by volume, as after many glasses it had no affect. The open seating policy in the dining room made it easy to get acquainted with fellow adventurers during the cruise. We found this "Waterway of the Czars" attracted a more interesting traveler than you are likely to meet on a 2,000 plus passenger cruise ship. Rain greeted us in St. Petersburg as we toured some of the famous and fabulous sites as the Hermitage Museum, Catherine the Great's summer palace, beautiful Russian Orthodox Churches and a visit to Peter the Great's magnificent summer home, Peterhof. I saw my first ballet, "Swan Lake," in this city. Joan asked me if I would go again? In replying to that request, I said "When you go to an NFL football game, I'll go to another ballet." Our Russian guide, Gennady, spoke excellent English and has visited the U.S. on six occasions. His five years of guiding tours complimented the many attractive sights as he explained in detail the different sites and cities we visited during the two-week trip. Once we left St. Petersburg, the rain stopped, the sun shown and the night skies clear enough to bring on heavy frosts. We layered clothes, shivered and enjoyed this pristine country side and vibrant cities. From St. Petersburg, we stopped at Kizhi Island, a beautiful spot in Lake Onega. The cathedral there is unique. The fairy-tale-like Church of the Transfiguration, built in 1714, is made entirely of weathered wood with more than 20 onion domes that glowed like silver in the cold morning sun. While cruising for six days, including 16 locks, the Viking people introduced us to the history and present economic details of life in Russia. A lady with two doctorates to her name, gave five lectures while our guide Gennady gave two lessons in the Russian language and Cyrillic alphabet. We didn't do well with these lessons! During our last three days of the tour in Moscow, a world class city, we visited inside the Kremlin walls and the Kremlin's Armory museum where we saw incredibly ornate carriages used by the czars for official occasions. Lenin's Tomb was viewed from the outside as it wasn't open during our stay. The sunlight striking the multicolored domes of St. Basil's cathedral in Red Square was an inspiration in itself. Legend has it that, after Ivan the Terrible had St. Basil's built, he had the architect blinded so he could never again create something so beautiful. Following an hour and a half drive through interesting suburbs and countryside, we came to the Trinity Monastery at Sergiev Posad (Zagorsk). This is the famous fortress monastery of St. Seregius. The monastery is best know for the blue-domed Assumption Cathedral, towering in the brilliant sunlight over the white stonewalls of the monastery. Along with hundreds of other visitors, we enjoyed a few minutes of a Russian Orthodox service with beautiful chanting and hymns. After Red Square, we were ready for the fun of Arbat Street, a cobbled pedestrian mall flanked by sidewalk cafes, bars and shops. Scores of vendor stands offered every conceivable souvenir: nesting Matroshka dolls, shawls, lacquered boxes, amber jewelry, fur hats emblazoned with the hammer and sickle. The U.S. currency was welcomed almost every place in Russia with the notable exception of rest rooms. But a few Rubles kept attendants happy. Our last evening in Moscow was spent at the theatre enjoying a folk dance performance of over 100 dance professionals. Their intricate dancing and the various beautiful and ornate costumes was a fitting farewell of our Russian adventure. We found the Russian folks friendly and always willing to help us with most speaking enough English to satisfy our needs. The ship's staff, particularly the dining attendants, were always courteous and well trained. The cities, although drab at times, spoke of a new vibrant Russia. The core city was filled with upscale prestigious international shops offering fashionable clothes and appliances. Everywhere throughout every cruise stop, reconstruction was evident as the Russians brought there buildings into the next century. We did not see any individual homes in the major cities. Rather the nine and one-half million Russians living in Moscow reside in mile after mile of apartment buildings. Traffic jams filled the six-lane streets while people parked their cars on the sidewalks and in the outside driving lanes. Thousands of billboards stood as sentinels every quarter mile on almost every street and building. Someone forgot to enact a sign ordinance and of course, these signs are all in the Cyrillic alphabet! Both our Sarasota friends, Alice and Roger, and ourselves left Russia and the Russian people with a new understanding of a great country and a warm friendly people. Arriving home after 24 hours of travel, we remembered the gleaming domes of the Kremlin, the old ladies in Uglich selling wild flowers and the statue of Mother Volga blessing the river with her arms outstretched. gjm4700@comcast.netDecember 2002 Read Less
Sail Date December 2002
My review: Charlotte and I just returned Sunday night from a 12 day visit to Russia through Viking River Cruises. We flew from Atlanta to Paris and connected with Air France to Moscow. Boarded a large Viking Russian river cruiser, MS ... Read More
My review: Charlotte and I just returned Sunday night from a 12 day visit to Russia through Viking River Cruises. We flew from Atlanta to Paris and connected with Air France to Moscow. Boarded a large Viking Russian river cruiser, MS Pakhomov and spent three nights on board as a hotel in Moscow. Spent our anniversary in Red square. We got to see Putin and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch as they came out of a Kremlin church. The churches are magnificent - covered with icons. People are very friendly. Traffic in Moscow was worst than Atlanta, LA, etc. City of 25 million who are now buying autos on roads built in the 30's. The Moscow subway carries 9 million people daily and the stations are like art museums with marble statues, paintings, frescos - and they are spotless! People were very nice. Saw the Moscow circus, KGB headquarters, Kremlin, St. Basil, palaces, palaces, palaces. The biggest surprise - the young women - they are gorgeous. Then cruised up the Volga River visiting, the small towns of Uglich, Yaroslavl, and Kostroma, and Kizhi were we saw the wooden church built with out nails on 1 mile between 4 mile island. On the way I made my Russian singing debut, singing "Some Enchanting Evening" during passenger night. Cruised up the Neva River and then the Svir into St. Petersburg. Saw Peter and Catherine's castles. the Hermitage the gold, amber, and Wedgwood on the walls, ceilings, staircases is incredible. Went to the Marinsky Opera house where we saw "Samson and Delila" and to the St. Petersburg theater and saw "Swan Lake". We had lunch with a very modest Russian family in their small flat on the 4th (walk up). Grandma was a big women. Her daughter a beautiful blue eyed blond who dances in the Bolshi ballet, and her 18 year old daughter who is studying ballet. It was a wonderful meal and a memorable experience. This and many other optional tours were arrange by our travel agent and dear friend Shirley Binder. She gave us a completer turn-key package on several trips. You will be pleased with her service - her e-mail is shibin@aol.com St. Petersburg is the Venice of the north with canals throughout the city. Gets to -40 F in the winter. More that 30%of the land in Moscow and St. Petersburg is devoted to parks. Many statues of Lenin... Stalin nowhere to be seen. Of the 200 passengers on board and we have traveled with 34 of them before on other Viking Cruises, so it was like a big family reunion. More churches in Russia (and they are active) than Italy. I purchased the new Sony DCRDVD camcorder that writes directly on DVD. The pictures and color are fantastic. Have 9 1/2 hours of video plus over 450 digital stills. The crew and staff on board could not have been nicer. Would be our number 1 recommendation to anyone traveling to Europe for the first time or considering going back again. Richard and Charlotte Loehn Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
I was one of 50 mostly "seasoned" travelers who signed up with Smithsonian Journeys for a trip from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on the Sergei Kirov (named for a well-liked Communist Party leader) that is now run by Viking River ... Read More
I was one of 50 mostly "seasoned" travelers who signed up with Smithsonian Journeys for a trip from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on the Sergei Kirov (named for a well-liked Communist Party leader) that is now run by Viking River Cruises under a joint venture between a Russian and a Swiss firm. Its sister ship, the Viking Pakhomov, was recently rated by Richard Loehn, who pretty well covered the itinerary, so I will focus more on the voyage itself. The ship, like so many of those now plying the same route (Moscow Canal, Volga River, Lake Rybinsk, Lake Onega, Svir River, Lake Ladoga, and Neva River), was designed and built in East Germany in the late 1980s. It has been refurbished a few times since, and both it and the Pakhomov are marketed solely to the English-speaking market. (The other 150 passengers on our ship were either Brits, or Americans who'd booked their trip directly with the line). All personnel who had contact with passengers spoke at least enough English to handle their jobs. The cruise manager, Michael Bordokoff, is an American of Russian descent, with an ideal personality for that function. The waitresses and female bartenders looked really young, with flawless complexions and most of them with natural blond hair. The ship has three passenger decks, a library, two dining rooms (open seating but you are assigned to either one or the other, and there's just one sitting, with the exact timing adapted to the tour schedule), two bars, a sun deck, and a few other deck areas for sitting or fitness walking. There are NO elevators, which means that people who have trouble climbing stairs should probably not take this trip - also the means of exiting the ship can pose minor hazards - Smithsonian made sure to warn us of all this in advance. The gift shop is barely worth mentioning. There is NO source of between-meal snacks and NO availability at all of news bulletins or even weather forecasts. The satellite phone for outbound calls didn't work. One is truly incommunicado. Most of the cabins are 90 sq. ft., with narrow twin beds covered with a blanket in a spotless white duvet. Many in our group regarded these accommodations as very small - some had tried to obtain larger ones but there are relatively few of them. All cabins are outside, have plenty of storage space, and a small refrigerator. Cabins are immaculately clean, used towels replaced twice daily, and the temperature is individually controlled (the a/c can be deafening, though). The shower system is unique, clever and a source of jokes, and hard for people accustomed to paying for more luxurious quarters to adapt to. It's important to remember that this is a river cruise through a part of the world that has only recently opened up to tourists, and one should not expect a traditional "cruise ship." And, by the way, we almost never felt the motion of the boat. The ship has a draft of only 10 feet, and the waterways were not deep. We truly "glided!" The food was excellent. The executive chef is Swiss, as is the hotel manager. Early continental breakfast in the forward bar, slightly later full breakfast buffet and to-order fare in the dining rooms. Four-course lunches and dinners (salad or salad buffet, soup, entree, dessert). Always two choices of entree and dessert. Portions modest but satisfying, and everything very artistically arranged on the plates. I suppose the only criticism might be that there isn't enough "typically Russian" food. Most passengers get all their meals on board or in a snack box taken on the tours, so there's not much chance to eat a meal in a Russian venue. All passengers go out on shore excursions on buses with good guides provided by the line - often substituted at intervals by guides that must by law be hired locally or at specific sites. The Smithsonian Journeys group had a slightly different itinerary that included three lunches in typical Russian restaurants that cater to tour groups. There is also an on-board lecturer (Russian woman) who was very well liked by all the passengers - a dynamic speaker, covering both history and current Russian politics. Group lessons in Russian were also given. There are a few days "sailing" when no land tours are taken, so these events are welcome. There's some interest in watching the ship go through many locks. In the evenings (except in St. Petersburg when there were tours to ballet, a canal cruise and a folklore show) a combo or pianist played in the bar, or there was a "crew show" and a "passenger talent show" plus a good folklore show. We also had - at extra cost, a caviar tasting and a vodka tasting, on separate nights. The vodka tasting especially was a lot of fun, as a lot of Russian jokes were told (in English). On caviar night - actually held before dinner - we learned a lot about the various types and why they're so expensive. Daily handouts gave full information about the stops we'd make, a detailed schedule for every day. It seemed to me that there should have been more announcements about places of interest that the ship was passing - I can recall only two or three landmarks that were pointed out. We did not see much wildlife at all, and of course we were traveling in some very lightly populated areas so the scenery did not vary much. We stopped at Uglich (home of the famous watch factory - sold for $20 each), Yaroslavl and Kostroma, and Kizhi. The first three are thriving towns/cities in which I'd liked to have lingered a bit to observe the locals after the obligatory visits to churches and monasteries. Kizhi is more of a "museum" and not inhabited except during the tourist season. This was a great way to see some of Russia - I'd recommend a post-cruise or pre-cruise day or two in either Moscow or Saint Petersburg if you really want to see either place more thoroughly. The cruise that starts in Moscow really gives it short shrift, focusing more on three days in Saint Petersburg. The cruise that starts in Saint Petersburg gives two days there and, I heard, a bit more time in Moscow. Always work with a travel agent because of the need to obtain visas that specify EXACTLY the days you will arrive in Russia and leave Russia - also you may have to obtain an "invitation" from a hotel that you plan to stay in before or after your cruise. The "invitation" from the cruise line won't cover those days. Reports I heard indicate this takes some time and effort. Shopping: People seemed to be particularly interested in amber jewelry. There certainly were a lot of beautiful items at varying prices. I bought mainly nesting dolls and Christmas ornaments, plus two watches. Russians haven't yet caught on to Americans' interest in t-shirts and coffee mugs. I also bought the tourist books, beautifully illustrated w/photos of buildings and interiors that one could never take on one's own. Dress: Smithsonian guests, female, were advised to take a skirt and also a head covering in order to visit certain of the churches. The skirts are not really necessary, we found. Pants are OK, as Russians have become resigned to the outfits favored by tourists. The main prohibition is against shorts and short dresses/skirts. Head coverings are needed from time to time. Photography: A modest fee - no more than US$3 and usually less - may be charged for use of your camera in certain churches or museums - your guide will tell you. Make your decision when you enter because it's hard to go back and find the permit-seller after your group has passed through the ticket takers. A higher fee may be charged for videotaping. Just remember these churches need to spend a lot on reconstruction and preservation and the extra money presumably will help. Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
My river cruise was from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Sukrov which wasn't the ship that I expected from the brochures. Very few if any, amenities on board to entertain the guests which were 168, not a full ship. Other than ... Read More
My river cruise was from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the Sukrov which wasn't the ship that I expected from the brochures. Very few if any, amenities on board to entertain the guests which were 168, not a full ship. Other than lectures, nothing else on a daily basis except Russian themed movies which were decades old. The dinner service was adequate but preparation was definitely lacking...no spices, bland food though the herring was great for me! No exercise activities onboard nor no spa type equipment. Without ones' books you'd be hardpressed to find something to do after dinner. This ship will be totally renovated into a deluxe all suite ship for the 2008 cruising season...let's look forward to many changes. A suggestion to all Russian river cruise companies: due to the heavy traffic in Moscow and St. Petersburg, all the passengers should be put up in local hotels in these two cities to cut down on the 2 hour drive from the boat to the city for sightseeing...so much wasted time and extremely tiring. There is an operator of river cruises that does exactly this..shouldn't be a big problem and very good for the passengers. Thanks see you on the river!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
We do not do cruises. Going to sea in a floating hotel has absolutely no appeal, and having to dress for dinner while on vacation is definitely not something we want to do. On the other hand there are some trips that make more sense when ... Read More
We do not do cruises. Going to sea in a floating hotel has absolutely no appeal, and having to dress for dinner while on vacation is definitely not something we want to do. On the other hand there are some trips that make more sense when done by ship than by any other means of transport, and St. Petersburg to Moscow (or the other way around) is one of them. We had previously done only one other river cruise and that was on the Nile (not a trip offered by Viking) where the lack of suitable alternative accommodations made the ship essential, at least for Westerners accustomed to a certain level of comfort, health, and safety. While infrastructure in Russia and Egypt are vastly different the waterways make this a good way to travel in this part of Russia. Although Viking offers to arrange for air transport to the port of embarkation we elected to make our own arrangements, but we did take advantage of Viking's airport to ship transfers. Unless you can read Russian words in Cyrillic text it's probably best to take Viking's transfers both to and from the ship because the airports are a long distance from the docks, none of the road signs are in Roman text, and from what we heard, many taxi drivers have limited or no comprehension of English. One thing to consider when meeting a cruise ship or any other organized tour with a scheduled departure, is allowing sufficient time to get to the starting point. This was made obvious to us when our initial flight from LAX was cancelled when the aircraft was found to be not airworthy (after all passengers were aboard with seat belts fastened). Our original itinerary included a change of planes before leaving the US and we would have missed that connection because of the cancelled flight. A second connecting flight likewise became doubtful when weather at the connecting city delayed flights there. Finally, after almost 12 hours at LAX we departed on a non-stop flight to London. Since we had planned a short stay in London there was never any doubt that we would get to St. Petersburg a few days later in time for the ship's departure but had we planned to arrive just in time for embarking on the cruise we may have "missed the boat." Lesson learned. To call Viking's "Waterways of the Csars" a cruise is a bit of a misnomer because the ship is small (106 staterooms) compared to the behemoths usually associated with the word "cruise" and dress is always on the casual side, even at the "Captain's Dinner." Many men and women (there were no children on board) did "dress for dinner" but "business casual" was more the rule; nary a tux wax seen. Viking claims to "operate our ships according to the highest standards of Swiss hotel management" and they live up to that claim. The main purpose of the ship is transportation not entertainment although there was certainly no lack of things to do while underway. More on that later. The Viking Surkov has very recently been "extensively" renovated according to Viking, and it shows. The good news is that the interior of the ship is all new, and very well done at that. Everything that Viking says about the cruise was true - these folks know how to provide an excellent travel experience. The bad news is that the ship was apparently put into service before the renovations were complete. Our cruise was the third sailing since the ship left the yard and according to the staff there had been no shakedown cruise before the first revenue cruise. Two problems persisted for the entire cruise - staterooms were either cold (as was ours, which was consistently less than 20 deg C for all but a few hours) or hot, that is, some were hot and some cold, but we heard no complaints from passengers that any staterooms were alternately cold and hot, and there was an occasional odor of sewage in various locations throughout the ship but fortunately for us not in our stateroom. The sewage smell was the lesser problem for most of us (judging by the scuttlebutt) since it was generally neither severe nor persistent, though we know of one of the single cabins that remained somewhat smelly (and HOT) for the duration. Except for the problems with temperature control the staterooms were quite nice. (See Cabin Guru, below) On board, all expenses not included in the tour package (optional tours, adult beverages, laundry service, internet access, etc.) are billed in "units" which are at parity with Euros but apparently Viking is not permitted to call it that. A few days prior to the end of the cruise a final statement was issued and henceforth all purchases were cash (rubles) or credit card. Viking cannot exchange currencies on board but on most shore excursions there was an opportunity to convert US dollars. UK pounds, or Euros to rubles. In the big cities ATMs are easy to find. We (the two of us) brought the ruble equivalent of about US$500 with us and had rubles left over. We don't spend much on drinks or souvenirs so your mileage may vary. Ah, yes. Drinks. With wine by the glass typically priced at 6 units (almost US$10 at the ship's Euro-dollar exchange rate) if you want wine with most meals it would probably make sense to sign up for the beverage package when you book. I don't recall the details but I think it gets you unlimited drinks for a fixed price. I saw plenty of wine served at meals but got the definite impression from one passenger at least that the wines served were not of the quality we Californians expect to get at home at very modest prices. The ship's crew is all Russian, as is the dining room staff (mostly waitresses and a few waiters) but the on-board management apparently consists only of German nationals. The tour guides for the shore excursions are all Russians with excellent command of English and superior knowledge of their subject. Unlike the tour guides, the dining room staff had limited ability to converse with us in English. There was never any difficulty communicating about menu choices, but questions such as "What is this item on the menu?" never got a satisfactory answer. The menu had a definite international flavor with familiar items from the Continent and some unfamiliar Russian dishes. Even when choosing a menu item with an unfamiliar name and without a description, nothing truly bizarre appeared at the table. Overall we ate quite well on board and all meals were included. With almost the same number of crew as passengers, the overall level of service throughout the cruise was excellent. The passengers were mostly from the US, UK, and the antipodes, including more than thirty Australians travelling as a group. This being a rather pricey boat ride, the passengers were of course rather well off and for the most part were beyond retirement age, some way beyond. Several folks used wheelchairs or canes and even with these required appliances most (but not all) of the shore excursions were well within their capabilities. That is not to say that the shore excursions involved little walking because walk we did. However, the pace was set to accommodate those with less than youthful mobility. For each shore excursion the routine was similar. Prior to leaving the ship all passengers exchange the magnetic card key to the stateroom for a small card that shows the port location (in Russian) so in the unlikely event of getting separated from the group the card can be presented to any taxi driver (presumably they are all literate in Russian) to arrange transport back to the ship. This scheme also allows for "taking attendance" prior to the ship's departure thus assuring that no one gets left behind. Something like that could ruin your whole day. The Viking website covers the details of the shore excursions, but this is a review of the cruise so I'll limit my comments about the shore excursions. Viking offered either as part of the package or as options, excursions that covered the key places in Russia that are listed in "1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List" by Patricia Schultz (the book, not the barely watchable hokey home video shown on the Travel Channel) and that was one of the reasons we took this cruise. One of the tradeoffs involved in group travel is that word "group." Being part of a group imposes some limits on how to spend time; for example, in museums we got to see a lot of art but which particular art and how long we could view it was not up to the individual. And let there be no doubt, there is a lot of art to see! Our guides did schedule some "free time" at several locations so we sometimes had the opportunity to choose how to spend our time. The Russian guides (as mentioned earlier) were very knowledgeable. We had guides that live on board, and at some locations we had a local guide with the specialized knowledge appropriate to that location or museum. For those of us who were primarily interested in the cultural aspects of the cruise, these are the people that made the trip truly worthwhile. For the first shore excursion we picked a guide and a bus and that guide became "our" guide for the duration of the cruise. We had the good fortune to select the oldest of the group and she turned out to be an exceptional guide with experience as a guide beginning in 1960. The crew and guides sign on for six months of cruising, and as the captain explained during our visit to the bridge, the ship's crew works for six months without a day off. The officers and crew demonstrated excellent seamanship throughout the voyage and the weather cooperated to the extent that no one seemed to get seasick. Even on the larger bodies of water (lakes and reservoirs) the surface was relatively calm so most of the time there was little evidence of motion while underway. The on board activities included vodka tasting, caviar tasting (we skipped both), an amateur night where the passengers presented a modestly produced variety show, and several sessions on Russian history. Near the end of the trip we were offered a question and answer session with the guides. As for the history sessions, this was conducted in the large lounge/bar set up like a meeting room with the guides at the front of the room facing an audience of passengers. With a standing room only crowd the guides bravely fielded questions about all aspects of Russian life, both present and in Soviet times. One of the guides is old enough to have remembered life during the Nazi invasion and the aftermath of what the Russians call The Great Patriotic War (that's WWII to most of us). While all of the questions from passengers were politely phrased and considerate of our hosts, we got into some rather blunt political discussions, for example. It quickly became obvious that Russia is no longer the Evil Empire of Soviet times. Also obvious from what we heard during this Q&A was that the Russian population is a tough bunch of people who have endured some really terrible times. The Romanovs were truly awful rulers, Stalin was even worse, the subsequent Communist rulers were incompetent at best (so far no surprises), and a real surprise (to me at least) was the Russians' opinion of Gorbachev and Putin. Gorby got a mere 1% of the vote the last time he ran for office (it seems that he is universally disliked for causing incredible hardship during the unplanned transition to a free economy), and they finally have a ruler in Putin that has brought them both stability and a functioning economy. Putin may be trying to control his domestic media (and perhaps crown himself emperor) but there is apparently no restriction on what Russians may read or access from beyond the borders of Russia. These people have access to the same sources of news that we have and they clearly take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those sources. All expressed their opinions, apparently without reservation, and not all opinions were flattering to the state. Debarkation was uneventful and as well organized as the other aspects of our journey. It wasn't Viking's fault that our early morning flight from Moscow required a 1:15 am wake up call. I went to Russia expecting to visit a more or less third world country (albeit one with a big army and some nukes) but came home with the realization that Russia has changed a lot in the past ten years or so. St. Petersburg and Moscow are both rapidly becoming truly modern European cities and in both cities the amount of construction and infrastructure restoration activity is impressive. The people living in the small cities and towns we visited don't seem to be any more isolated than folks living in America's heartland (and we know that they are not isolated). Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Be careful - when reading the brochure. Torstein Hagen says in the intro that " no time is wasted with lengthy coach excursions as most of our cruises moor in the centre of towns and cities". This does not apply to the ... Read More
Be careful - when reading the brochure. Torstein Hagen says in the intro that " no time is wasted with lengthy coach excursions as most of our cruises moor in the centre of towns and cities". This does not apply to the "Waterways of the Czars" cruise;the boat in Moscow is between 60 and 90 minutes by coach from the city centre;it is a 20 min walk then 25 min metro journey to the centre. In St Petersburg it is 45 min min to the centre by coach;or 20 mins bus then 20 mins metro to the centre. The cabin details are incorrect.In the 2008 brochure the cabin has a plan showing a table abd two chairs by the window;these do not exist. There is a photo also showing this;in the 2009 brochure the plan has gone but the photo is still there (with a note saying it isn't an actual photo!) We booked the boat partly because we thought we could sit in our cabin looking out onto the waterways whilst sitting at our table reading,drinking etc etc.No. Other cabins were close to the engines,had a pillar AND a column (making easy access impossible);and ours had a set of steps and a table/chairs outside when the diagram did not show this. All in all,a MISLEADING brochure. Be careful - when booking.The booking staff are charming - and inefficient.On four separate instances mistakes were made in the documentation (no cabin allocated,wrong date on the visa application,wrong names on the transfer sheets,no documentation for transfer hotel provided etc). Doing it yourself is cheaper and more sure. Be careful - when at dinner.It is supposed to be open seating but some passengers can reserve seating;we never found out how (we had the most expensive cabin) but it would have been nice to avoid the twice daily bunfight for a couples table.Order your drinks BEFORE food if you want drinks with your meal rather than after.A couple of senior restaurant staff patrolled the dining area but never appeared to put right the clear deficiencies (the actual serving staff were fine but let down by the management/system). Be careful - in your interpretation of 5 Star.The other reason we booked this boat. In no way is this a 5 Star experience;the food was poor (re-formed calamari rings for god's sake!) and we would have expected 24hr availability of (at least) snacks. A really awful and nonsensical (and highly priced) wine list (when you could access it) just added to the disappointment. Be careful - when going on excursions.In Moscow the time taken to get anywhere lead to us having an evening meal at 23.30 (I kid you not);very little time anywhere. In St Petersburg we ended up at the back of every queue even tho' we set off at 07.30 to beat the rush;we were taken to a really awful "Russian" restaurant the NO ONE wanted to be at that really disrupted a reasonable day. A night at the (poor) ballet was followed by a very dangerous 40 min attempt on the part of a thousand or so people to get out of one door;and another late night back. Viking Cruises are on notice that this particular night could lead to deaths;the couriers say they have told Viking of this but they don't care. If you ignore this review and book with Viking (there are other agencies that use other lines at much cheaper rates) do not go on this excursion - you could die. Be careful - if you try to arrange for a special occasion to be celebrated (as they advertise in the brochure).We went on this excessively priced holiday because it was supposed to be the best (it can't be) and it was my wifes 60th birthday - a real treat. Despite pre-notification Viking ignored my wifes birthday,and half-heartedly did something for our 38th wedding anniversary a week later. Other cruises have managed to sort something from the passports,not ignored specific requests. So,Russia is super;the waterways are fantastic;Moscow and St Petersburg are tremendous. If you want a cruise,however,choose a different line to Viking - they don't deliver. If you want to see the cities,go to each separately as Viking really don't allow you to see them properly (if at all). Conclusion;Viking hugely disappointing and way over priced (did I get into the crap arrangements meeting us at Moscow airport - no,didn't have time). Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
The Viking River Cruise "Waterways of the Czars" (July 31 - August 12, 2009) was our first cruise experience, and will likely be our last. While we enjoyed Russia and its many attractions, we were very disappointed in most ... Read More
The Viking River Cruise "Waterways of the Czars" (July 31 - August 12, 2009) was our first cruise experience, and will likely be our last. While we enjoyed Russia and its many attractions, we were very disappointed in most aspects of the cruise itself. Specifically: • Overall value for money: Most people we met on the cruise paid several thousands of dollars less than we did, and for supposedly better cabins. This knowledge lessened our enjoyment considerably. We advise others to book as late as possible for Viking river cruises, if you must take one, since they discount heavily closer to the sailing date to fill up the boat. • Food quality: Despite claims in Viking advertising, the food was of consistently poor quality, e.g., every fish dish I ate was tasteless, mushy, and obviously frozen not fresh. Other passengers with previous Viking experience agreed with us, but said that Viking cruises in Western Europe have much better food and service. Several other passengers also spoke with the "hotel manager" to note their unhappiness with food quality. • Service: The dining room staff was mostly young Philipinos, who were all eager to please but clearly not sufficiently experienced, properly trained for efficient service, and too few for a fully booked boat. Dinner normally took well over two hours, and we and many others had to cut short dinner in order to attend other scheduled events on board. • Our cabin: The cabin (227) was comfortable enough, except that it seemed to be directly above the engines used to stabilize the boat when going through locks. These engines were so noisy and vibrated so much that when lock passage occurred at night sleep was impossible. Viking should warn potential customers about this noise in main deck cabins, and advise them to bring ear-plugs to cope with the noise or select other cabins. • Doctor: The Kirov's Russian doctor, whose English skills were very limited, had a remarkably diffident manner when my wife banged her forehead on one of the Sky-Bar's glass doors. The clinic had no proper ice-bag, so to reduce the large swelling he recommended using a plastic garbage bag or laundry bag. Given the average age of Kirov passengers, shouldn't an ice-bag or two be among the clinic's supplies? The doctor also failed even to stand up during her visit to his office, declining as unnecessary a suggestion that he examine her forehead. Bottom line: We wrote to Viking about these problems, to which they responded with an offer of a $500 credit for a future Viking cruise. Our response to that will be "nyet." Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Wow, the maiden voyage.  We were hoping that all the bugs would be worked out before we boarded.  Actually we booked our cruise so that the ship would be sailing for two months before we sailed, but alas no such luck.Amsterdam started ... Read More
Wow, the maiden voyage.  We were hoping that all the bugs would be worked out before we boarded.  Actually we booked our cruise so that the ship would be sailing for two months before we sailed, but alas no such luck.Amsterdam started out with a bang.  We were mooned by a passing boat as we sat down for our first dinner aboard the ship.  It started the cruise off with laughter and goodwill among the passengers who were lucky enough to witness the event.  We had an excellent tour of Amsterdam before we set sail for Budapest.  The first set of locks we went through to reach the Rhine river were quite tame in comparison to the locks that we encountered later on in the cruise. The countryside was peaceful, aromatic and we actually saw some real windmills.  Our first port of call was Cologne.  If you have been before, they offer a short version of the city tour.  I would definitely take this version the next time as I have seen the cathedral enough times now and would rather enjoy its quiet beauty on my own without having to listen to a tour guide wax on about their interpretation of the stained glass windows.  It was the next day when we realized the problems of being on the maiden cruise of a yet untested ship design.  We had heard the tale of Loreley when all of a sudden bang, a huge black cloud was to be seen at the stern of the ship.  The Captain and crew were unaware of the smoke until they suddenly noticed that the passengers on deck were trying to get their attention and looked.  Viking set a new legend.  The first time an anchor had been lowered on a Viking ship and the first time a Viking ship lost its power in the Loreley channel.  We waited for 2 1/2 hours for the tug boats to come and two us to safety where the Cumins engineers arrived to try to repair the engines.  At his point none of them were working.  We never did make it to Rudesheim.  They managed to get two of the three engines up and running about 4 am and we arrived in Mainz late.  We got off the ship and had our city tour, but the ship had to leave right away so that it could make up for lost time.  They put us on a bus where we had to travel a distance down the river to meet the ship.  We arrived before the ship did to the agreed meeting place.  We made it to Wertheim but due to the loss of time due to the ship breakdown ended up waiting forever to be picked up.  The ship was suppose to pick us up at 12:30 , then they said 1:30 and then the ship finally showed up at 2:15.  It was a fascinating town to be stuck in and they had good local bakeries which was a good thing as lunch was more than a little late that day. The next day we made it to Wurzburg and Rothenburg.  The tour this day was great and the Residenz palace is well worth a visit.  The lunch provided in Rothenburg was delicious and the town was fascinating.  Do make sure you visit the Christmas store while here.  We had to get off the ship early and take a bus to Nuremberg as the ship was still behind schedule.  I wish we had arrived in this city on a day other than Sunday as it basically was shut down as there are no stores, etc open on a Sunday.  They had a few ice cream and pizza restaurants open.  Regensburg wsa interesting.  Passau had an incredible local guide and just listening to her made the day very pleasant.  The organ concert was excellent.  I wish we had more time in Melk as it would have been nice not to have to rush to get back to the ship.  Durnstein I could have skipped without regret.  Vienna, what can I say.  I wish we could have more time.  The optional music concert was fabulous even though it was extremely hot in Vienna.  We enjoyed our time in a Vienna coffee house and the tour guide here was excellent.  Bratislava, quite honestly they could cut out the "choo choo train" and everyone would be quite happy.  By the time the tour guide described what you were seeing you were already past the building and could not see it anyhow. The town is interesting but it would have been nice to have a little more free time to explore on your own.  Sailing into Budapest at night was a magical experience.  I would say that this was the highlight of the entire cruise.  We did the next afternoon have the mother of all storms come in the afternoon, and people were quite happy to sit on board the ship and avoid going out in the rain and wind.  I wish the storm had not arrived as I would have liked to have seen more of the city.The local tour guides have been hand picked by Viking and it shows.  They were knowledgeable and entertaining.  With the exception of the tour guide in Cologne waxing on a little too long about the stained glass windows, I would say all of the tour guides did an excellent job.  I did feel gypped in Nuremberg as the ship arrived too late for us to have the city tour included with our WWII optional tour.The ship has some major safety concerns that need to be addressed immediately.  They have a hatch without railings  around it on the front deck that if someone was not watching could take a very nasty tumble down steep metal steps.  These steps lead from the galley to the lounge for the serving of food.  They do not have lighted exit signs on the doors leading to the staircases for emergency purposes.  They need to do something about the spacing in between the steel plates on the first deck.  If someone wasn't watching, they could easily catch a high heel in the hole and give themselves a nasty twist.I felt that the ship should have had better communication with the passengers.  With all the technical glitches, their term not ours, we should have been told what happened to the engine and that the ship was safe.  When the ship was late in arriving at some of the ports for passenger pick up there was no cruise staff to be fund until the time the ship was actually supposed to be there and then they disappeared again until the next supposed arrival time.  Quite a few of the staff members were brand new to Viking and it showed.The dining room staff bent over backwards.  I honestly felt that they could do with 2 more staff members  to speed up the process..  The ratio was 43 staff to 189 passengers.  Simply not enough staff.  They were still bringing equipment on board at the end of the cruise that should have been there before the ship set sail.  I think it would have been beneficial for the Captain and crew to have sailed the entire cruise at least once before they took a load of passengers.  The bumps in the night might not have been as noticeable if they had had a practice run of entering the locks.All said and done, I think we will be looking at another river cruise line the next time we do Europe.  We were disappointed after the service Viking had provided on the Yangtze River in China the year before. 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Sail Date July 2009
Booked a Categrory B, Deluxe Cabin on the Viking Surkov for the Waterways of the Czars cruise (Aug. 10-22,2009). On day one of sailing there was an obnoxious smell of raw sewage in our cabin and in the hallway. We informed reception and ... Read More
Booked a Categrory B, Deluxe Cabin on the Viking Surkov for the Waterways of the Czars cruise (Aug. 10-22,2009). On day one of sailing there was an obnoxious smell of raw sewage in our cabin and in the hallway. We informed reception and were told that this is normal when the ship is in motion, the sewage sloshes! We were unable to sleep because of the stench and the fact that the A/C didn't work. Other travelers complained, with the same results... There were two large pipes leading from the ceiling into a very large wooden box in the floor, right next to the bed. The picture in the brochure shows a small table and 2 chairs - non existing! The entertainment on board (as per brochure) is also non-existing. There was a Vodka tasting, at 15 Euros per person. The Russian folkloric entertainment was in a tent and cost 26 Euros per person. Check your credit card bill - Our entire cost of the trip was paid by c/c and there was a $600 "foreign exchange fee". We booked through California, why would we have to pay this charge? Your US Dollars are being sent to Switzerland! After much aggravation, the $ 600 were refunded. On board, they use a unit system (which equals Euros). The last two days of the cruise (after the bills were settled in Euros) they switched to Rubles! The food was good until it came towards the end of the trip, by then the salad bar looked beyond wilted. The endive salad was rotted! My feeling is that Viking could care less about the comfort, or health, of their travelers. They have your money up front and know that you won't take the same cruise again. I have this gut feeling that perhaps this company is not above board.. We have traveled all continents and plan on continuing our travels but definitely NOT with Viking Cruises!Kizhi Island Located on Lake Onega (Europe's 2nd largest lake) Open air architectural museum & UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wooden churches & other buildings were brought here from other parts of Russia. Transfiguration Church - 300 years old, built completely of wood (no nails) 22 timbered onion domes. It was a rainy, gloomy day and made the church look ominous (Halloween?), but yet a very interesting excursion. Goritzy On the Shore of Lake Siverskoye Visited Kirillov-Belozersky Monastery, founded in 1397 by St. Cyril filled w/ beautiful icons & frscoes. Now a museum.Yaroslavi - Called the Golden Ring city Figured prominently in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church. Not much to explore in these ports - churches, icons, frescoes. Uglich Town dates to 1148. Foound this to be a more interesting excursion, besides just seeing icons, frescoes. Ivan the Terrible's son was mudered here. The resulting uprising caused great distruction. In 17th-18th centuries wonderful architectural buildings were constructed. Moscow Amazing City! Very clean. The Metro is easy to navigate. Metro is very clean, elegant, marble, paintings, chandeliers, sculptures - Red Square - dating to 15th century. Not as impressive as I imaged, except for the St. Basil Catheral colorful onion domes.(never got inside though) Kremlin - More cathedrals, palaces, museums & the seat of government. By now, I am tired of seeing & hearing about the icons and frescoes. Every tour guide has the same verbatum speech. Armory - Fantastic, but very difficult to get close to exhibitions, especially the Faberge' eggs. The crowds are unbelievable! Exciting city - much to see and do, but be aware of pick pockets, etc. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
We decided to do this at the spur of the moment and were very lucky to get our visa's out of the Russian Embassy in less than a month, also our flight from Seattle to Dulles was a real squeaker. Everyone on board and about to pull ... Read More
We decided to do this at the spur of the moment and were very lucky to get our visa's out of the Russian Embassy in less than a month, also our flight from Seattle to Dulles was a real squeaker. Everyone on board and about to pull away from the gate on time when TSA stopped the flight and made everyone get off the plane along with any and all carry ons. Then they brought out the dogs to sniff the whole plane and all the passengers before we were allowed back on (makes you feel really comfortable huh!) So we were an hour late leaving Seattle and the cruise line had only given us an hour and a half when we got to Dulles to change planes. Very fun to watch me with two artificial knees and my husband with his artificial hip sprinting (I use that term loosely) through the airport along with a handful of other passengers and when we finally got to the gate for the Moscow flight the door was about to close. About 8 of us were the last passengers on board and I was sure we would never see our luggage again when we got there but after they boarded us we sat for about 1/2 hour waiting for the luggage and we all arrived with our bags in Moscow.....so that was the beginning of the good luck. There were only a couple of cabins left when we booked and we had no idea what was good and what wasn't and we went with cabin 402 (very near the back of the Upper Deck) It was a very quiet room because the hall is a dead end. We could at times very clearly hear the women in the next cabin talking but fortunately that usually didn't last long as they must have been as tired as we most nights. The other Cabin that we were offered was up front by the main bar and lounge and I think it must have been quite noisy. All the cabins on the upper deck looked very nice, windows opens and had an unobstructed view. Beds were very comfy, cabin was always clean and no strange smells from anywhere. My only complaint on the cabin is that they need to some how in-corporate another chair. There was only the one straight back at the desk and it would be nice for the other person to be able to sit comfortably (I was usually hogging the desk chair using my lap top.) Other only major complaint was the slow, slow, slow Internet connection but when we got to St. Petersburg they worked on it for several days so maybe it will be better. At least it's free and having your own lap top is a good idea as it's hard to get on the ship's two free lap tops. I could have also called this the Church and Icons tour as well. Who knew a communist country would have so many Churches, I would have thought that they would have been destroyed in the Stalin years but many were just turned into storage sheds but not harmed. You do get your fill of churches , it got to be a bit of a joke...."oh boy more icons." I thought perhaps we could have done with a few less Churches and some more time in Museums. Only spending 3 hours in the Hermitage is ridiculous.....you can't even begin to get a taste of it....more like a lick! I would like to see them offer a full day there and skip the city tour half of the day because you see the city when you are doing other tours like the Peter Paul Fortress or the Canal Tours. - If you are taking this cruise for gourmet food you might be disappointed. That is not to say that the food wasn't adequate and plentiful. The breakfast and lunches are quite good and the dinners were a bit more hit and miss, some strange offerings but nicely presented. My husband opted for the steak about half the nights because he's not a very adventuresome eater and the steaks were well cooked smallish but tasty, always served with a baked potato which I thought they could have varied. I had the steak only one night and one night I choose the chicken breast (both the steak, chicken breast and Caesar Salad are always available.) I tried the other options the rest of the time. Only the Lake Perch was inedible.....the rest were just sort of mediocre but with the salads, soups and desserts you never go away hungry....just not fantastic food. The steak was quite nice the chicken pretty dry and chewy so probably best to not opt for that. I do wish they would be a bit more inventive in the dessert area. It was almost always ice cream with some sort of sauce or little cookie. The service by the Filipino waiters was fabulous. We usually opted for a table for 2 and were served by Leith and Jun and they were so very very attentive, pleasant and made dining, even with not always such great food fun. Breakfast was probably the best meal of the day, the buffet had lots of wonderful options and you could order omelette's, Eggs Benedict, French Toast, pancakes and hash-browns served to your table. There was always Russian Champagne on the buffet and several options for juice. Lunch was always green salad with many choices for toppings, several cold salads and sandwiches and two or three hot dishes plus soup and dessert (two options one always being ice cream) was served at the table. The 24 hour coffee and tea bar was really nice as well and was directly below our end of the ship. They serve a light tea most afternoons in the Panorama Bar at the other end of the ship. This consisted of tea and an assortment of cookies and cakes. The tours were good, we had Tatiana for our guide and she is fabulous. So look for her, pretty blond lady in her 50's. Whom ever you choose at the beginning is your guide for the whole time and whom ever is on your bus the first day is with your group for the entire time as well.....your new family for the next 13 days. The boat itself is very nicely laid out, good viewing areas on the top deck and in the Panorama Bar on the front of the Upper Deck. It would be nice if there was more comfortable seating somewhere on the boat but I guess you can't have recliners on a vacation ;-) I should add that the dress on the ship was very informal and I probably wouldn't pack a lot of dressy clothes. Men mostly wore jeans, khakis and polo shirts and the woman wore more slacks and jeans than anything else. There were lots of men and woman in jeans at dinner and even some in sweat pants (which I thought was a bit too much) but what ever. I didn't wear about 1/2 of the dressier outfits I brought, because I would have felt over the top except for the Captains dinner and one other night and I really don't bring that fancy of things as dressing up for my husband is nice pants and a sweater he is not a suit guy so if he was comfortable you know it was informal. I think Viking does a good job of making your time as pleasant as possible and I don't have any big earthshaking complaints.....it was an overall success. We were not as taken with Russia as we have been with Asia and New Zealand but it was good to check it off the bucket list and I'm glad we went. The traffic and smog in Moscow was appalling and the people seem a bit grumpy. Pictures from the cruise (including room & photo's of food) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quiltsa...7622305559005/ First stop on the river was Uglich and it was very interesting as well. Toured the Cathedral where Ivan the Terrible's son was murdered. Walked to it from the boat (easy walk through a very good street market.) Unfortunately the guide had told us that their would be better shopping on the last stop of the river cruise portion and wait to buy our souvenirs there.....that turned out to be bad advise unless you were looking for very high quality hand crafted things as every thing at the last stop fell into that category. If you are looking for trinkets for the grand kids or small things for friends...stick to the street markets the prices are much better than the craft shops. The first port was Moscow......what a mess that city is. Absolutely horrendous traffic. Two hours from the airport to the boat dock, and a good hour and a half to two hours into town from the dock (about a 20 min drive in normal traffic I would think.) So for a day trip to town a good 3 to 4 hours or more was in snarled up traffic.....and then if you signed up for a night excursion add another couple of hours. I really think that Viking should feed people at a restaurant in the city on days that their are all day tours and then night events. We skipped the folk music concert because we couldn't face getting in the bus again for yet another drive into the city. We had the opportunity to use the bank ATM in Moscow to get Rubles. We were charged $105 for 3000 Rubles (this turned out to be a much better deal than the next ATM in a smaller city were we were charge $136 for the same 3000 Rubles so plan ahead and get your rubles in Moscow.) We did do the Moscow by night but it was really beautiful seeing Red Square after dark (even though it poured rain, luckily it was only one of two rainy episodes on the whole trip.) We enjoyed the tour of the Armory and the Kremlin and took the optional 1/2 day tour of the New Maiden Nunnery and Cemetery on the day of the Moscow by Night tour. The New Maiden Nunnery was really lovely and the cemetery where Kruschev and Gorbachev's wife were buried was fascinating as well. Yaroslavl was the next port and it had some gorgeous churches and cathedral's as well (go figure) and we were bused into the center of town and did a walking tour from their. After touring the churches we were given about an hour and a half to shop. Very interesting local fruit and food stuffs market that I really enjoyed taking pictures of but we were warned to not eat anything (they offered dried fruit and nuts at the stalls.) The guide said it might be our last place to get Rubles till St. Petersburg so we found an ATM machine and got really taken because of course unless you read Russian you have no idea what it says about exchange rates or fees for using the machine and our guide was off doing her own thing, not where we could ask her to translate. Goritsy was the next stop where we were bused to Kirrilov where we visited the Monastery of St. Cyril. It is known for it's remarkable collection of icons but frankly we were iconed out so we spent the time strolling the grounds which were really beautiful and enjoying the flowers and the local parishioners who were coming out from church services. I wished we had more time to just soak up the ambiance of the little towns and less time being lectured to about the icons and their significance (but that's just me....not very interested in religion.) Then it was on to Kishi Island on Lake Onega. It is the famed open-air Museum of Russian Architecture. The beautiful Church of the Transfiguration an ornate structure of wooden ribbons and 22 domes in 3 tiers built entirely with out nails. It was really cool and the examples of local life from the early 10th century that were being acted out were fascinating as well. Great stop. We also had one more stop on the river the next day and that was Mandrogi which was suppose to be the big place for buying souvenirs but for the most part we all felt it was very expensive although their were some lovely things. Unfortunately it was pouring rain at this stop and not much fun to tromp around and look at the buildings....it is sort of a Russian Epcot Center for life in the olden days. There was a pavilion with berry pies that were quite tasty We ended the cruise in St. Peterburg and I love that city......could have spent a week there. The Hermitage is gorgeous, Catherine's Palace, fantastic and just the city in general was lovely with all the canals and beautiful buildings. Again we were docked a bit of a drive out but it wasn't as bad a commute to the sites as in Moscow and the smog wasn't as bad either. Both Moscow and St. Petersburg had subways which I think should have been made use of instead of busing but I suppose that is hard with large groups. But it would have been a nice option. Again Russia is probably not somewhere I would go again but I did love the experience and would love to take another Viking Cruise (say the Grand European one.) Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My sister and I took the Viking River Cruise, "Waterways of the Czars," September 3-15, 2009, traveling on the newly renovated Viking Surkov. Our experience was extremely positive. The ship, decorated in Scandinavian Modern ... Read More
My sister and I took the Viking River Cruise, "Waterways of the Czars," September 3-15, 2009, traveling on the newly renovated Viking Surkov. Our experience was extremely positive. The ship, decorated in Scandinavian Modern style, was clean and attractive. It offered a large reception area, library, Internet cafe, two bars, sundeck, coffee/tea/hot chocolate service area, and a well appointed restaurant. In addition, a doctor traveled on board. There were some 180 travelers and about 100 staff members, including crew, receptionists, cabin stewards and stewardesses, tour guides, program director, kitchen staff, and waiters/waitresses. Our cabin, though small, was well laid out and we had a TV, small refrigerator, and safe in addition to the usual furnishings. Two large bottles of water were provided each day even though we were told that the ship's water supply was filtered and therefore safe to drink. Tours and excursions were well planned, and most were included in the basic cost of the cruise. In addition, while we were traveling from St. Petersburg to Moscow there were extra activities on board such as lectures on Russian history, a demonstration of how to cook a Russian dish, a tour of the bridge, Russian lessons, and a formal Russian tea. The quality of the food served was somewhat uneven. Breakfast was wonderful, with a bountiful buffet; it was also possible to special order hot cereals, omelets, poached eggs, and egg benedict. The lunch buffet always included a delicious salad bar and one or two hot entrees as well as soup. Dinner was a 5-6 course meal with two or three choices per course. It was also always possible to order a grilled rump steak, grilled chicken breast or Caesar salad as an entree. Dinner was always adequate, but some dishes--especially fish--were over cooked at times. I have to add that I had major dietary restrictions--allergic to wheat, eggs,and mil--and the kitchen staff bent over backwards to accommodate my needs. They even managed to procure some special gluten free pastries for me to eat at the Russian tea. All in all, the cruise was an outstanding experience, and one that opened our eyes about many aspects of Russian history and Russia today. Our second port of call was Mandrogy. Mandrogy is a work in progress--a village where traditional Russian handcrafts are practiced and taught. The structures are also built in traditional Russian village style. Unfortunately, we arrived an hour late and it was pouring rain. I think that this port will be fascinating in about five years, when the village and handcraft programs are more complete. It's a good place to buy typical Russian souvenirs. Our next port is --Kizhi Island. This is an open air museum which has on display an old Russian Orthodox Church with 22 domes, built entirely of wood without a single nail. It also has examples of village houses with their furnishings and the guide explains how the people lived in such villages. This was fascinating! Kizhi is on an island in Lake Onega, and the scenery is very picturesque, too. Our next port was Goritzy, where we visited the monastery of St. Cyril of the White Lake. It is now basically a museum although there is a new and small community of five monks now. This was very interesting because we got to see the different churches that made up the complex. The gardens were beautiful, and again since the monastery is situated on a lake, the natural setting was superb, with ducks swimming up to the shore and almost ready to eat out of our hands! I'm grouping our fifth and sixth ports together as we visited 7 in all. Our last two stops before Moscow were Yaroslavl and Uglich. Yaroslavl is a city of 600,000 with an impressive collection of churches, monasteries, and public buildings. We also visited a display of lacquered papier mache boxes--and this is the best place to buy them as there is a wide choice of different styles and good prices. We had some free time here and were able to visit a market, and stroll the streets of a Russian city. Yaroslavl is beautiful, and has lots of restaurants, cafes, shops, etc. Uglich was next; it's much smaller with a population of 40,000. However, it's probably the best place to buy real Russian handcraft souvenirs. The unwalled Kremlin of the city is full of beautiful churches and government buildings and also has nice gardens. We had a lot of free time to shop here. Our last port of call was Moscow. You probably have a stereotyped image of Moscow--drab, dull, shabby, grim. Put all those ideas aside! Moscow is a beautiful, vibrant, cosmopolitan city on the level of Paris or Venice. If you are interested in architecture, you will love Moscow! The city is full of beautiful structures of many different time periods. Moreover, there are many gardens, parks, museums, a couple of rivers, seven hills. . .in short, everything needed to create a beautiful city. Even very mundane structures have been made beautiful. For example, many of the Metro stations were designed by top-notch architects and artists and are part of any thorough tour of the city. And let me assure you--the Metro is spotlessly clean, as is all of the city that we saw. (And, for that matter, Russia generally. . .think Switzerland.) For a final example, we docked at the North River Terminal and it struck me how beautiful the terminal was and how attractive the gardens around it were. I went out for a stroll one morning and took a lot of pictures. I thought that the beauty of this terminal was my own little discovery because none of the tour guides mentioned it. However, I bought a book about Moscow while there and when I read it after I arrived home, I discovered that this terminal is considered an architectural masterpiece. But, it's just one of thousands in this very beautiful city. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Just Returned We just returned Sunday from the Moscow to St. P on the Surkov and it was a most pleasant, relaxing and enjoyable trip. You do get your fill of churches though, it got to be a bit of a joke...."oh boy more icons." ... Read More
Just Returned We just returned Sunday from the Moscow to St. P on the Surkov and it was a most pleasant, relaxing and enjoyable trip. You do get your fill of churches though, it got to be a bit of a joke...."oh boy more icons." I thought perhaps we could have done with a few less Churches and some more time in Museums. Only spending 3 hours in the Hermitage is ridiculous.....you can't even begin to get a taste of it....more like a lick! I would like to see them offer a full day there and skip the city tour half of the day because you see the city when you are doing other tours like the Peter Paul Fortress or the Canal Tours. - We were in cabin 402 (very near the back of the Upper Deck) It was a very quiet room because the hall is a dead end. We could at times very clearly hear the women in the next cabin talking but fortunately that usually didn't last long as they must have been as tired as we most nights. The cabin looks very nice, window opens and had an unobstructed view. Beds were very comfy, cabin was always clean and no strange smells from anywhere. My only complaint on the cabin is that they need to some how in-corporate another chair. There was only the one straight back at the desk and it would be nice for the other person to be able to sit comfortably (I was usually hogging the desk chair using my lap top.) Other only major complaint was the slow, slow, slow internet connection but when we got to St. Petersburg they worked on it for several days so maybe it will be better. At least it's free and having your own lap top is a good idea as it's hard to get on the ship's two free lap tops. If you are taking this cruise for gourmet food you might be disappointed. That is not to say that the food wasn't adequate and plentiful. The breakfast and lunches are quite good and the dinners were a bit more hit and miss, some strange offerings but nicely presented. My husband opted for the steak about half the nights because he's not a very adventuresome eater and the steaks were well cooked smallish but tasty, always served with a baked potato which I thought they could have varied. I had the steak only one night and one night I choose the chicken breast (both the steak, chicken breast and Caesar Salad are always available.) I tried the other options the rest of the time. Only the Lake Perch was inedible.....the rest were just sort of mediocre but with the salads, soups and desserts you never go away hungry....just not fantastic food. The steak was quite nice the chicken pretty dry and chewy so probably best to not opt for that. I do wish they would be a bit more inventive in the dessert area. The service by the Filipino waiters was fabulous. We usually opted for a table for 2 and were served by Leith and Jun and they were so very very attentive, pleasant and made dining, even with not always such great food fun. Breakfast was probably the best meal of the day, the buffet had lots of wonderful options and you could order omelette's, Eggs Benedict, French Toast, pancakes and hash-browns served to your table. There was always Russian Champagne on the buffet and several options for juice.....it was a great breakfast. Lunch was always green salad with many choices for toppings, several cold salads and sandwiches and two or three hot dishes plus soup and dessert (two options one always being ice cream) was served at the table. The 24 hour coffee and tea bar was really nice as well and was directly below our end of the ship. They serve a light tea most afternoons in the Panorama Bar. The tours were good, we had Tatiana for our guide and she is fabulous. So look for her, pretty blonde lady in her 50's. Whom ever you choose at the beginning is your guide for the whole time and whom ever is on your bus the first day is with your group for the entire time as well.....your new family for the next 13 days. The boat itself is very nicely laid out, good viewing areas on the top deck and in the Panorama Bar on the front of the Upper Deck. It would be nice if there was more comfortable seating somewhere on the boat but I guess you can't have recliners on a vacation ;-) I should add that the dress on the ship was very informal and I probably wouldn't pack a lot of dressy clothes. Men mostly wore jeans, khakis and polo shirts and the woman wore more slacks and jeans than anything else. There were lots of men and woman in jeans at dinner and even some in sweat pants (which I thought was a bit too much) but what ever. I didn't wear about 1/2 of the dressier outfits I brought, because I would have felt over the top except for the Captains dinner and one other night and I really don't bring that fancy of things as dressing up for my husband is nice pants and a sweater he is not a suit guy so if he was comfortable you know it was informal. I think Viking does a good job of making your time as pleasant as possible and I don't have any big earthshaking complaints.....it was an overall success. We were not as taken with Russia as we have been with Asia and New Zealand but it was good to check it off the bucket list. Pictures from the cruise (including room & photo's of food) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/quiltsa...7622305559005/ First stop on the river was Uglich and it was very interesting as well. Toured the Cathedral where Ivan the Terrible's son was murdered. Walked to it from the boat (easy walk through a very good street market.) Unfortunately the guide had told us that their would be better shopping on the last stop of the river cruise portion and wait to buy our souvenirs there.....that turned out to be bad advise unless you were looking for very high quality hand crafted things as every thing at the last stop fell into that category. If you are looking for trinkets for the grandkids or small things for friends...stick to the street markets the prices are much better than the craft shops. The first port was Moscow......what a mess that city is. Absolutely horrendous traffic. Two hours from the airport to the boat dock, and a good hour and a half to two hours into town from the dock (about a 20 min drive in normal traffic I would think.) So for a day trip to town a good 3 to 4 hours or more was in snarled up traffic.....and then if you signed up for a night excursion add another couple of hours. I really think that Viking should feed people at a restaurant in the city on days that their are all day tours and then night events. We skipped the folk music concert because we couldn't face getting in the bus again for yet another drive into the city. We had the opportunity to use the bank ATM in Moscow to get Rubles. We were charged $105 for 3000 Rubles (this turned out to be a much better deal than the next ATM in a smaller city were we were charge $136 for the same 3000 Rubles so plan ahead and get your rubles in Moscow.) We did do the Moscow by night but it was really beautiful seeing Red Square after dark (even though it poured rain, luckily it was only one of two rainy episodes on the whole trip.) We enjoyed the tour of the Armory and the Kremlin and took the optional 1/2 day tour of the New Maiden Nunnery and Cemetery on the day of the Moscow by Night tour. The New Maiden Nunnery was really lovely and the cemetery where Kruschev and Gorbachev's wife were buried was fascinating as well. Yaroslavl was the next port and it had some gorgeous churches and cathedral's as well (go figure) and we were bused into the center of town and did a walking tour from their. After touring the churches we were given about an hour and a half to shop. Very interesting local fruit and food stuffs market that I really enjoyed taking pictures of but we were warned to not eat anything (they offered dried fruit and nuts at the stalls.) The guide said it might be our last place to get Rubles till St. Petersburg so we found an ATM machine and got really taken because of course unless you read Russian you have no idea what it says about exchange rates or fees for using the machine and our guide was off doing her own thing, not where we could ask her to translate. Goritsy was the next stop where we were bused to Kirrilov where we visited the Monastery of St. Cyril. It is known for it's remarkable collection of icons but frankly we were iconed out so we spent the time strolling the grounds which were really beautiful and enjoying the flowers and the local parishioners who were coming out from church services. I wished we had more time to just soak up the ambiance of the little towns and less time being lectured to about the icons and their significance (but that's just me....not very interested in religion.) Then it was on to Kishi Island on Lake Onega. It is the famed open-air Museum of Russian Architecture. The beautiful Church of the Transfiguration an ornate structure of wooden ribbons and 22 domes in 3 tiers built entirely with out nails. It was really cool and the examples of local life from the early 10th century that were being acted out were fascinating as well. Great stop. We also had one more stop on the river the next day and that was Mandrogi which was suppose to be the big place for buying souvenirs but for the most part we all felt it was very expensive although their were some lovely things. Unfortunately it was pouring rain at this stop and not much fun to tromp around and look at the buildings....it is sort of a Russian Epcot Center for life in the olden days. There was a pavilion with berry pies that were quite tasty. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
I do not always write reviews for cruises, rather do so only when my evaluation and experience seem to differ from prevailing comments and evaluations by other travelers. I booked "Tulips and Windmills" on Viking Legend before ... Read More
I do not always write reviews for cruises, rather do so only when my evaluation and experience seem to differ from prevailing comments and evaluations by other travelers. I booked "Tulips and Windmills" on Viking Legend before the ship was launched because I'd long yearned to explore that part of Europe in more depth (my paternal ancestors immigrated to the U.S. from Holland in the late 1800's), and because my husband dislikes air travel and the Legend has SINGLE staterooms which were favorably priced on Viking's Early Booking Discount offer. Later on I read negative reports and comments about Viking Legend and about Viking River Cruise company, and had some doubts in the months between booking and boarding my plane for Amsterdam on March 25. However, I knew the ship was going where I wanted to go and that the price was within my budget traveling solo, so I was GOING!! My personal experience was absolutely wonderful. Lovely ship, excellent upbeat and efficient crew, fine dining experiences, good itinerary -- nothing to complain about or really even to criticize. I am happy to give Viking Legend very high marks. A substantial majority of the 177 travelers on board the Legend's March 27 sailing were Viking past passengers, so it seems clear that many other travelers are as happy with Viking as I am. One criticism I had read was that other river cruise lines include wine with dinner, but not Viking; well, so did Viking this year. Wine with dinner had been included as part of the Early Booking package, and apparently the company decided to expand it to include all passengers. The passengers were an interesting, well-traveled, and well-educated group of people. As well as those from the United States, we had travelers from the UK, Australia, and Canada, which added to the interest of shared experiences as folks brought different perspectives to what we were seeing. Although I enjoyed every single part of the journey, highlights for me were Kinderdijk, the Delta Project, and Keukenhof. Europe had had a fierce winter so we were too early for the full tulip bloom, but even so there were some fields of brilliant color, and the pavilions were glorious with the beauty of flowers of all kinds. The Keukenhof grounds are lovely, with statuary as well as ponds and fountains and lovely flora. We were lucky on weather. Several times we heard reports that where we were at the moment was the only place in The Netherlands where it was NOT raining; several days we completed our day's activities and just as we headed back on the bus or were back on board the ship, some rain would start to fall. The two times we did experience rainfall were at the Delta Project and on Easter Sunday at Keukenhof; both of those days it was off-and-on, not ongoing. Overriding "themes" for me were the role of bicycles in this country (human population 16 million, bicycle population over 18 million, automobiles 7 million), and the great energy and cleverness of the Dutch people as they have over time continued to manage their lowlands issues. The Delta Project is amazing, and passing through the locks was both interesting and fun. I took two optional excursions and recommend them both highly: Holland north country with the vegetable auction the afternoon of our day in Hoorn, and the Kroller-Muller Museum the afternoon of our day in Arnhem. In addition to the specific interest of the places visited, both excursions got us out into beautiful countryside, reassuring us that even this most densely populated of European countries DOES have lovely open countryside, with hilly areas in the eastern areas. Viking Legend's on-board presentations were fine: a most engaging and entertaining performance by a group of folkloric Dutch dancers; a presentation on the European Union; and an excellent educational talk on the windmills the evening before our day at Kinderdijk, presented by the daughter/granddaughter/great-granddaughter of a windmill keeper who had spent much time in her childhood in the family's windmill home. Although my photo album is not ready yet, when it is it will be added to my travel photo site: [url]http://fredasphotos1.shutterfly.com[/url] It'll probably (hopefully) be posted by the end of April. If you have any specific questions, post a question in the River and Canal Cruising section of the message boards, with the title, "Question on Legend for Xoe". I booked my own air (Delta has the only nonstop Seattle to Amsterdam), took the Hotel Shuttle Bus from Schiphol to my Hotel Bellevue, a budget hotel booked on EasyToBook for 69 Euros. The hotel is very near Centraal Station so I was able to walk from the hotel to the ship for boarding the next day. All these plans worked wonderfully well, and as hoped. My Cabin 337 was one of 5 single cabins on Legend; there are 2 on the top deck, 2 on Deck 2, and 1 on Deck 1. My #337 was adjacent to the library at the stern of Deck 3, and I loved the location. At a moment's notice, I could pop into the library and out a door to see or photograph anything on either starboard or port side of the ship. I'd guess that the other single on Deck 3, #309, is an equally good location and would mean less walking to the lounge or dining etc. The cabin design and layout are good. Bed is a couch that converts to a bed, but this was very comfortable and resulted in more floor space, which I appreciate since I do yoga stretches each morning. I loved having the French balcony for fresh air when I opened the slider; I had it open a bit every night. The climate control in the room worked beautifully, including an "off" position for times I wanted the slider open. There are outlets for both U.S. and European plugs, so charging camera batteries was no problem, nor was there a need for a converter. Great room! (NOTE -- CORRECTION: This form asks how many ports we visited. We had NINE ports; the maximum choice given on the form is 6 so that's what I marked -- but it's wrong, should be 9.) Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
To give some background to our trip - I was born in Odessa Ukraine, and have been contemplating for some time to introduce my wife to the city and the country of which she heard so much. The Odessa-Kiev cruise on Viking Lomonosov provided ... Read More
To give some background to our trip - I was born in Odessa Ukraine, and have been contemplating for some time to introduce my wife to the city and the country of which she heard so much. The Odessa-Kiev cruise on Viking Lomonosov provided a possibility to do so with an added bonus of "highlighting" Crimea as well. The ship is very simple -â€" library, 2 bars (one forward and one aft), 2 restaurants (while we were assigned to Kiev restaurant the seating is open for all meals which gives you a chance to mingle with fellow passengers) and a sun deck -â€" otherwise just a hallways with cabins on both sides (4 decks total). Our cabin (229) was 90 sq.ft -â€" the TINIEST we've ever seen J but we were able to get everything out of suitcases and store them away with no problem so it was quite cozy and comfy (besides its not like we spent TOO much time in it) Actually it turned out to be a good location since all the cabins have a large window but all are overlooking a given deck so one has to be mindful of the situation least some fellow cruisers will catch you de-flagrante J The Main deck is "Crew" deck -â€" so we hardly had anyone moving past our window and we were literally steps away from the Front Desk and the disembarking doors (proves a good thing when the crowds begin to gather to go ashore) BY FAR -â€" it is the most passive cruise EVER! There is no "activities" on board for those mornings\afternoons that you are cruising -â€" I reckon the idea is for you to sit on the deck and soak up the scenery...but then you kinda ease in into this "lazy" lifestyle...and if need be -â€" there are books and games in library, they were showing movies on TV (mostly tapes not live but that's OK) and there were appropriate lectures on Ukraine History in general and ports-of-call when appropriate. Food was AWESOME (surprisingly I did not gain an ounce case you KNOW I was eating like a pig (or make it 2 pigs) J). They are also liberal with that wine that comes as a part of the package -â€" once its starts flowing you can ask for refills and they will give it to you no questions asked. The drinks at the bar are good (the best LIIT I've ever tasted) and they use top shelf brands (drink of the day was about 55 UAH). Draft beer (Slavutitch -â€" Ukrainian Beer) is very good and actually is cheaper than Coke (28 UAH vs 30 UAH for the same size glass) Speaking of Coke -â€" all soft drinks are charged even during the meals. At the same - water and iced tea are available with meals, 4 juices are there for breakfast and there is a coffee machine on Middle Deck that works 24/7 (and like I said -â€" wine is flowing during the dinner) so we were not hurting for soda. They also give you a 1 liter bottle of water in the cabin (if need be -â€" replenished every day). And there is no limit on stuff you can buy while in port and bring back into cabin (there is a small fridge). You KNOW some folks were dragging booze in on daily basis J If you want to serve it at the dinner though -â€" its 80 UAH cork fee charge. The stuff is very friendly and helpful but their English is limited -â€" if you "overstep the boundaries" by asking some unfamiliar question -â€" they will give you a blank look and say Yes (with the same friendly smile.... But that's about it) The weather while in Odessa and Crimea was just perfect! Couple of showers but kinda "passing by" or we hit everything at the right time (rained while we were in transit or inside the building) so that was not an issue aside carting the jackets with us some days and the temps were in upper 70s to upper 80s The 1st days into the river it did change to cooler (upper 50s -â€" mid 60s) but bearable. Unfortunately 1 day was a complete wash out - we were lucky that we just finished watching the Cossack Horse Show when the skies literally opened up and we were shooed-in back onto buses thus cutting short the rest of the visit (kinda was a bummer since this was on Khortitsa Island where Ukrainian (Zaporozhye) Cossacks started from as I was looking forward to view some of the fortifications and such) and the next 2 were kinda gloomy as well (it would periodically drizzle on and off -â€" just enough to be a slight nuisance here-and-there). But by the time we got to Kiev it was all nice and sunny again The "included" tours...well... they just cemented my reason of trying to stay away from organized tours (but then it is exactly the reason why I DO stay away from them). You are assigned the bus in the beginning of the cruise so the same driver and guide will be with you for duration. There were 28 people on our bus (it does not seem like the cruise was sold-out) and most of the folks are in their 70s so... time to get on get off... and pretty much running through museums and other exhibits -â€" not much you can do just go with the flow. (Be prepared to hear & see a lot of WWII (or as they call it The Great Patriotic War) stuff esp. since they are celebrating 65 years of VE Day this year) That said I was only too happy that I hired a private guide for all 4 days in Crimea. He was a great guy, had his own A\Cd little car (which did come handy in some places that the bus would not even DREAM to go through), very knowledgeable, enthusiastic and ... just everything you want to ask for in a guide! To make a long story short -â€" we hit EVERY place that Viking advertized as "optional" tours (even when one had to choose between "tour 1" or "tour 2") and THEN SOME! He got us into places that are closed to tourist crowds and pretty much I got everything I wished for (the only thing that was on my list that I didn't get to do was to take a cable car to the top of Ai-Petri (St Peter's) Mountain but that's only because Viking told me that the ship would be leaving Yalta at 2:00 pm and it actually did at 1:00 pm -â€" which lost us that hour and is not in any way Sergey's (the guide's) fault). All in all I paid him $510.00 $50.00 of which was a tip and was also paying whatever the entry fees to places were. So maybe the whole experience ran me $600-650 (tops) but again it was well worth it for me because of what we saw & did vs what the rest of the crowd did (or, obviously -â€" didn't). If you are interested -â€" contact him at sergo22yalta at gmail.com (again his name is Sergey). You most certainly can tell him that I recommended J To highlight one examle of what I just told you -â€" I have photos of me sitting in Stalin's cabinet behind his desk and Sergey and I in Molotov's quarters - both are taken at Yusupov's Palace which was where Russian Delegation was HQ'd during Yalta Conference (US Delegation was at Livadia (White) Palace (included in Itinerary) and Brits were at Vorontzov's (Alupka) Palace -â€" optional tour). The place originally belonged to Prince Felix Yusupov's parents and the big claim to fame here is that Price Felix is the one who murdered Rasputin In any case -â€" nothing that any other fellow cruiser even dreamt of remotely seeing.... There is not much to see & do in Dnepropetrovsk and Kremenchug -â€" they are just "1/2-dead monuments" to Soviet industry and I honestly have no idea as to why they are on the itinerary (I'd much more to skip one or both of them and spent that time in Kiev) but I'm not the one who makes the itinerary. No matter what -â€" the time in Kiev is simply NOT ENOUGH so make the best of what you'll see on organized tours! The ship arrives in Kiev shortly after lunch and you practically immediately carted off onto the tours of St. Sophia Cathedral and the Kiev_Pecherskaya Monastery of the Caves (once more - NOT ENOUGH TIME AT ALL!!!!) Upon the reurn - you have a choice -â€" either free time (shopping etc) or take a Jewish Kiev tour (to Babi Yar and the Main Synagogue). The tour is not advertized in Viking brochures and is 330 UAH pp; lasts approximately 2 hours and is a somber experience if you are familiar with the Babi Yar (done with a very knowledgeable English speaking local guide) I spent about $300.00 in tips all around (ship personnel and local guides) and ran up perhaps a $150.00 bill on board which included the above tour and some souvenirs. -â€" again PITTANCE since it was all in Hrivnas I also have to mention that they take away your passports for the duration of the cruise (no reason to make any scenes or protests as that wont help any) they give you some tail of a whale about customs but it's a lie -â€" probably a left-over appendix from "good old" Soviet times. In any case -â€" they give you a card (one per person) with your name, cabin # and bus # instead and it serves as your ID and also a "whereabouts" tool inasmuch as that you have to give them your cabin key for these cards every time you go ashore and thus exchange back upon return -â€" so they can see if anyone is "still out". They are not computerized at all in that sense -â€" all on board stuff is still done via signing individual purchase receipts. Once your bill is settled (last "cruising" morning on the way to Kiev) -â€" you get the passports back. At the last day I simply decided not to go through the hustle of haggling with either cab drivers or hackers about the fare to Borispol Airport and just let the Front Desk order me one of their "affiliate" cabs. The taxi was there 10 mins before the scheduled time - nice, clean & comfortable car. The trip took about 40 mins and the fare was 300.00 UAH (+ 30 UAH tip). Thus - as far as my "transfers" go I think I beat the Viking price hands down.... So in conclusion -â€" there are some setbacks but on the overall -â€" a very worthy experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
I have to admit that my husband and I chose this cruise because of a vacation time slot first and the destination second. Russia was not one of those places that I had a longing to visit. And in fact I must admit that I had a certain ... Read More
I have to admit that my husband and I chose this cruise because of a vacation time slot first and the destination second. Russia was not one of those places that I had a longing to visit. And in fact I must admit that I had a certain concern about what it might be like, all the way from what airline the Viking folks may have put us on (Aeroflot?) and what we might get for food onboard (borscht and boiled potatoes?) My husband remarked that for me, a successful cruise would mean simply surviving it. But my misgivings were all unjustified (well, with the possible exception of the cabin, see below) and I count myself lucky to have gone on this adventure. I would go back in a minute. We arrived in St. Petersburg on a cold rainy day. As promised we were met at the airport by the Viking folks, our luggage gathered up, and we and a number of other fellow cruisers were bused to the Pakhamov. We found a money exchange place right at the luggage area of the small airport so were able to convert dollars to rubles very conveniently. If you plan to buy anything at a souvenir stand or out in the countryside, have rubles. You can find an ATM in some towns but it isn't too convenient to spend your time trying to find them and seeing whether your card will work. We checked into our Category C room (90 square feet), which appeared to be a pre-fab style room with 2 sleeping pallets. We were told that the ship was built in East Germany during the Soviet era. We were lucky that our configuration allowed us to have one suitcase at the foot of one of the "beds" and we had enough room to move a table from between them to an area next to the closet. The "beds" were attached to the wall, so when someone in the next cabin got into theirs with gusto, you could expect yours to have a kind of rebound effect. Only one of us could get dressed or move about in the room at a time. The "yacht-style" bathroom was interesting but worked for showers just fine. It was not a great place for anything to dry, however. There was plenty of storage space in the cabin and a nice window. There was no in-room safe. We quickly adapted to the cabin and spent little time there at any rate. The ship was advertised as having been renovated but we could not see evidence of that. The common rooms were clean and comfortable, although not large. The dining room for our part of the ship was bright with windows on three sides. We had an Austrian chef, and the food was very good. There was a breakfast buffet and a menu from which you could order a few options. At lunch and dinner there were always choices and one could order more than one choice or multiples of the same choice. On our cruise we had complementary wine, red or white, of a very reasonable quality and as much as we wanted. The service was very good. Most of the crew spoke very good English; those that did not did their best to understand and if necessary went to another crew member for help. These young people were a highlight of the cruise for me. The destinations are described on the web site so I won't go into them here. We missed Kizhi due to dense fog. I was fascinated with everything. I was delighted that we arrived at about the same time as celebration of the Great Patriotic War, or World War II. For the first time American, French and British troops marched in the parades. This war is very much in the close memories of people, and those in St. Petersburg and Moscow had very different experiences of it than anyone in the US. On the outskirts of Moscow our guide pointed out a tank trap at the side of the multi-lane street, indicating where the barriers had been set. Seeing Red Square was something I could not imagine, having grown up watching the military parades on May Day with the tanks and missiles and goose-stepping soldiers. Moscow was most surprising to me with its constant traffic jams and cars everyone would recognize, high rise buildings and the very extensive metro system. Most of the port excursions were included in the trip. The Russian English-speaking guides were excellent and the audio system the best I have seen. Some onboard lectures on Russian history, language, and souvenirs were well-done and interesting. I for one was glad to have been given some time to shop and pointed at places where Russian objects and souvenirs of higher quality were available. I fell in love with the traditional Russian shawls and bought several. If you want souvenirs they will be lowest cost in the countryside, more in Moscow, higher on the ship and highest at the airport. The end of the trip arrived all too soon. We were transferred to the airport very efficiently. If you envision this trip as an adventure rather than a high-amenity opportunity you will have a wonderful time. I learned a lot, met many interesting people and did a lot more than just survive this trip! Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We debated long and hard whether or not to spend the money on this trip. We believed all VRC advertised and decided that it would be the trip of a lifetime. It WAS...the worst trip of our lifetime. We were on the Pakhomov. We are WELL ... Read More
We debated long and hard whether or not to spend the money on this trip. We believed all VRC advertised and decided that it would be the trip of a lifetime. It WAS...the worst trip of our lifetime. We were on the Pakhomov. We are WELL heeled world travellers and had SOOO many problems with Viking. They claimed they "didn't know about the closings for Russian Independence Day"???????? They are in Russia, how could they not know that. We had a Cat A Deluxe cabin. Lots of problems with heat and air regulation-no A/C as advertised, windows that wouldn't open,almost no TV reception and internet spotty at best. Our deluxe cabin advertised as comparable to the finest hotel room was shabby, old and not at all what was promised. The bed was AWFUL!!! Some had plumbing problems the whole cruise. And everyone had issues with the cleanliness...not how it looked, but that is was not at all sanitized-several of us watched carefully because we were concerned. Many of us watched and never saw anyone wiping down the handrails. OK, maybe it was done at night, but should have been done continuously. The stairs on the ship are very risky to navigate, especially for anyone with mobility issues. The room maid wiped everyone's in room glassware out daily with a dry cloth (the same one)...we checked it out. At least 2/3 of the passengers on the ship were very ill with a virus (us, too, but not as much as some). Some were even hospitalized. The common areas were toatally inadequate for the number of people on the ship. Sometimes they asked that only one person from a cabin come to briefings. WHAT!!! The included ballet performance was specifically aimed at tourists and performed by an amateur troup. We were very pushed to buy souvenirs and several times "taken" to where we were encouraged to buy. These trips were included tours. Worst of all were the included tours. They were literally "tourist herds". I am not exagerrating. For the money we paid I really expected much much more. I have done tours for less money and been in small groups of 20 or less. Too many optionals...more should have been included for the price. Sure we could have gone off on our own...some did...but we paid so much for the cruise that it seemed it would have been adding insult to injury. VRC states with them there is no standing in line or sitting on busses. Total lie!!! Every time we tried to politely express our concerns to someone on the staff, we were told "Sorry, there is nothing we can do". On the plus side-we had wonderful servers at dinner-who spoke almost no English. The food was adequate...nothing to rave over at all but nice presentations. VCR promised 5 couse gourmet meals. We had exactly 2 and in my opinion they were NOT gourmet. We were assigned a dining room so did not get to mingle with everyone at meals as touted. But...best- we made some wonderful new friends and have all agreed that we will travel together again...just not on Viking. We all agreed on that. VRC deletes all negative posts on Facebook so all you read are the positives. Oh...and Helsinki. $900 apiece for 3 nights in a mundane hotel room, a 2 hour walking tour and a 6 hour uncomfortable train trip to St. Petersburg. Everything in Helsinki was mega-expensive, so be prepared to drop a wad if you go. FYI...I have been travelling worldwide for 30 years-2 or more trips per year-my travel partner also. We are not just griping. It was a VERY disappointing trip. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This review will not cover the stops on the trip as those can easily be reviewed on Vikings web site and the company's descriptions are an accurate depiction of the place you will see. In fact, I think it is safe to say that all ... Read More
This review will not cover the stops on the trip as those can easily be reviewed on Vikings web site and the company's descriptions are an accurate depiction of the place you will see. In fact, I think it is safe to say that all information on their web site is honest and forthright. The scheduling of our trip with Viking could not have been smoother. Our documents were accurate, arrived as scheduled, and the flights and transfers went without a hitch. We were very surprised to see our transfer guide still there waiting for us after our delayed flight and long customs entry. We fully expected to have to find the ship on our own in Moscow- but no - she and the van were still there! We knew it was going to be a good trip after that kind of service. What I will tell you is that the staff was friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and available at all times. They were very organized and did what they said they were going to do. The food was good, presented well, and served by staff who were pleasant and anxious to serve well and learn more about their guests. We were also anxious to learn about them and so it was always a time to look forward to for us. Our daily shore excursions were wonderful and better than the Viking descriptions of course. And the opportunity to follow-up with questions at the daily lectures on Russian history was great. You will not be impressed with the ship if you have taken their other upgraded ships and you are touring in 2010 but it is comfortable, clean and will be upgraded for 2011. We found that it was exactly as they described it so no surprises there. In summary, a great trip that we highly recommend. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was our first big river cruise and we are so happy that we chose Viking. Our cabin was small, but adequate. We had a wonderful view of the river (unless we were tied up next to another ship in port). I brought my computer and internet ... Read More
This was our first big river cruise and we are so happy that we chose Viking. Our cabin was small, but adequate. We had a wonderful view of the river (unless we were tied up next to another ship in port). I brought my computer and internet access, though spotty, was adequate. Meals were fabulous. Each one was a winner, some better than others. The restaurant staff, all Filippino, were excellent. We loved Mary Jane, our waitress. The ship staff was pleasant, though not all spoke English and sometimes I met a blank stare when I attempted to get information at the front desk, but someone else was along soon enough to answer my question. There were varying degrees of competence among the tour guides. Some were excellent performers, others were not, though they had great command of the information. (Sadly, we did not have one of the better performers). There were several activities, including lectures, Russian lessons, a Gershwin concert, a talent show, a couple of special dinners, lessons on buying gifts, and of course the vodka tasting. Special notice must be given to Victoria's lecture on Gorbachev...best lecture of the whole trip. Material I read before the cruise said there were spa and massage (and hairdressing) facilities on board. We never saw sign of those, but the ship had been recently renovated and perhaps those were eliminated with the remodeling. Most of the optional excursions were well worth the money, though Moscow by night was less spectacular than I expected. I loved the opportunity for all the musical performances. This was our first trip with Viking and from reports I have read, people are not all satisfied with it. If this is one of their "less satisfying" cruises, I look forward to one that gets high marks from everyone, because I certainly give this one high marks. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too. We are experienced travelers, and we ... Read More
The purpose of this review is to explain why, after our recent cruise in Russia, my husband and I will avoid Viking River Cruises in the future, and why we will advise others to avoid Viking, too. We are experienced travelers, and we understand that no trip is going to happen exactly as planned. We do, however, expect that as conditions change we will be kept informed. The number of variations between what was sold and what was delivered, coupled with the failure to keep us informed of significant changes in the itinerary (detailed below), were significant enough that the term "bait and switch" kept coming to mind. A certain amount of trust between the travel vendor and the traveler is necessary for a good travel experience. After this Russian cruise, we do not believe we can trust Viking River Cruises. In addition, in spite of three attempts to contact Viking about these issues (twice via e-mail and once by letter), no one at Viking has responded. This leaves me feeling that, once they have your money, they lose interest in you. First: The condition of the ship was not as described in Viking brochures. When I made the booking with Viking in November 2009, I was advised by the Viking agent that the Pakhomov was an "excellent choice because it has just been renovated," something which figured heavily in my decision to book this cruise. In fact, per Stephan Busch, Hotel Manager, the Pakhomov had been scheduled for renovation in late 2009, but this renovation was not done. Mr. Busch told me on June 13, 2010, that he and others had made Viking Cruise Lines aware of the discrepancies between the ship as it was and the ship as it was described in Viking literature, but that "nothing had been done." In my view, therefore, we were sold something that did not exist. Second: Viking withheld information from us. In November 2009, I also booked the Helsinki extension, mainly for the "scenic ride though the rolling landscape," described in the Viking literature. Two or three days before that extension was to start we were informed that there would be no trains running between St. Petersburg and Helsinki on the day the extension began, and that we would be flying from St. Petersburg to Helsinki. Since our primary reason for booking the extension was to see more of the countryside, we would have preferred to fly home instead of going to Helsinki, but by the time we were informed only very costly alternatives were available. However, our air tickets for St. Petersburg to Helsinki were purchased by Viking BEFORE WE LEFT THE U.S. TO BEGIN OUR TRIP. In addition we were finally told, again just before the Helsinki extension began, that we would be in Finland during a National holiday, and almost all museums and restaurants in Helsinki would be closed. No optional tours were offered to take advantage of the holiday: we were simply left with a lot of free time in a virtually empty city. We were told in Helsinki that this Holiday had been celebrated for over 50 years - so Viking should have been well aware of it, but they didn't share that information. Third, there were numerous small things that, individually, would not have been of much concern but added up to irritation: • The "Itinerary & Departure Information" brochure states on page 6 that "Porters will...take your luggage to the transfer buses. Instead, one of the Viking guides pointed to luggage carts saying that we would have "a ways to walk before we got to our bus." When the bus finally came, one of the Pakhomov sailors loaded our luggage into the bus as we brought it to him. When we were in the bus, the Viking guide reminded us to tip the sailor. • The brochure states on page 25 that dinner is "generally" at 7:00 p.m. In fact, dinner was at 7 p.m. only once. Dinner was at 7:30 seven times, 9:30 once, 8:00 once, 7:20 once and 5:00 once. • The brochures states on page 26 that smoking is not permitted indoors on the ship. This apparently does not apply to the crew area. Heavy cigarette odors almost always emanated from the crew's quarters. Happily, this often served to cover-up the smell of raw sewage that wafted through the ship on a regular basis. • Again on page 26, the brochure indicates that staterooms aboard the Viking Pakhomov have safes and telephones. They don't. • From page 27, "staterooms aboard...Viking Pakhomov have televisions featuring channels with some U.S. or English programming." There was a television in the room, but most of the time - even in port - there was "no signal" and nothing on the television except the channel advertising Viking cruises. • Per page 28 of the brochure, "when possible, we will notify you of changes to your itinerary prior to departure; when not possible, your Program Director will advise you of changes. See discussion above about the Helsinki land extension. • The on-line description of the Category A Deluxe stateroom (the kind of room we booked) says that each has, "hotel-style beds (can be separated); large picture windows that open; private bathroom with enclosed shower; air conditioning; space under bed for storing suitcases; roomy wardrobe with wooden hangers; converter in the bathroom outlet." In fact, most hotels would be ashamed of the beds, which were small and furnished with thin mattresses. There is a large picture window, but we were advised never to leave it open because of the mosquitoes. There is a private bathroom in the stateroom, but the only thing that "encloses" the shower is a plastic shower curtain; thus it is nearly impossible to take a shower without getting the rest of the bathroom wet, too. There is an air conditioning unit in the room, but the desired temperature can only be approximated. There is space under the bed for storing small suitcases, but the "roomy wardrobe" isn't very roomy, and we had to sign for extra hangers if we wanted more than the few supplied with the room. There is no converter in the bathroom outlet; in fact, there is no outlet in the bathroom at all. And one more thing: there are only two public rest rooms on the boat. That was not an issue until the last day when all of us were required to leave our rooms early in the day, but many of us were not taken to the airport until late afternoon. I do wish to emphasize that the crew of the Pakhomov were friendly, helpful, and well-organized. I do believe that is very unfair to the crew to expect them to deal with a number of customers who have promised something by "the head office" which the crew cannot deliver. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Although Viking states that the Pakhomov has been remodeled, it's hard to find evidence of any renovation on this 20-year old vessel. The standard cabins have very small beds that are uncomfortable even for a normal sized person. The ... Read More
Although Viking states that the Pakhomov has been remodeled, it's hard to find evidence of any renovation on this 20-year old vessel. The standard cabins have very small beds that are uncomfortable even for a normal sized person. The cabins have a "yacht style" bathroom with a shower incorporated into a very small space containing a lavatory (usually cracked) and toilet AKA-a Wet bath. Storage is minimal with but a single small drawer per passenger and insufficient space to store empty luggage. Standard cabins have no TV and even the few deluxe suites that have a TV have no TV service except in Moscow or St. Petersburg. News aboard was handled via a "daily newspaper" with as much space devoted to sports scores as was devoted to news. These four-page papers were produced in Brit, American, and Aussie editions. Housekeeping service was good. Food service and quality was average to good although the breakfast buffet was underwhelming. The shipboard staff was usually able to handle routine requests without difficulty. Anything more than a routine request was generally met with a blank stare and a nebulous quasi-promise to "look into the matter". Shipboard cleanliness is good, but there are few amenities aboard these Russian river cruise vessels. The six guides travel aboard and are augmented with local guides in each port. Our guide was very difficult to understand and consistently spoke in a low monotone so that it was hard to differentiate the important information from the general patter. She also seemed to have somewhat of an "attitude" problem with some of the passengers in our tour group. Choose your guide wisely because the guide you choose on the first day's tour will be your guide for the duration. Having taken and been very impressed with the Viking China Cultural cruise previously, we were big Viking fans coming to this cruise. Now - we would be hesitant to recommend this cruise to anyone other than a person with a strong interest in cathedrals and religious icons. The museums, palaces, ballet, and symphony were interesting, but many of them charge an additional fee to take photos or videos. There are also 6-8 optional excursions to fill in "free time" in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These optional tours are expensive and they offer poor value for their cost. Viking seems intent on wringing every nickel out of each passenger on this Russian river cruise. All in all, we found this cruise to offer inadequate value and this opinion was shared by a majority of the other passengers we spoke with. Bottom line - even with a 2-for-1 deal, nearly free air transportation, and complimentary dinner wine, you will likely not get a "warm, fuzzy feel from this Viking river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Our cabin was a good size and the bed was comfortable; linked twins, with 2 duvets. The shower room was small, but reasonable and there were good sized fluffy towels and also face towels. Storage space in the cabin was adequate, with ... Read More
Our cabin was a good size and the bed was comfortable; linked twins, with 2 duvets. The shower room was small, but reasonable and there were good sized fluffy towels and also face towels. Storage space in the cabin was adequate, with sufficient hangers. A large bottle of water was provided every day. We had a 'fridge and a safe. We were glad to have a cabin in the bows of the ship as it was further away from the engine. The curtains were heavy and kept out the light. There was air conditioning, but it found it difficult to cope in the heatwave. The laundry service was very expensive. The lunches and dinners were excellent and consisted of several courses. Breakfasts were good but we would have liked more low cal. choices. The Philippino waiting staff were friendly, spoke good English and could not have been more helpful. There was 'free seating' in the restaurant. House wine was included, but was not very good. We opted for the drinks package; money paid up front to include cocktails, a choice of good wines, spirits and juices, water and soft drinks. Excursions were well organised and our guide, who spoke excellent English, was very good. Earphones were provided. these enabled us to hear everything said by the guide. The more popular sights were very crowded and very hot in the heatwave.Smaller events were unexpectedly fun, like Russian doll painting classes and a cookery lesson. On-board lectures were excellent. The staff were friendly and helpful at all times. The port of Moscow where we docked was rather a surprise at first, located by a semi-derelict building which sometimes had music blaring from it. However a park was behind this and there was easy access to the Metro for the brave! The Metro is worth seeing, as it contains a variety of art and some wonderful sculpture. Red Square and the Kremlin are sights not to be missed. The Kremlin is best visited with a group, otherwise the queues to get in can be horrendous. Lenin's tomb can be visited at times and it is free. It felt rather spooky. One is forbidden to show any sign of amusement and we were told to take passports, as an involuntary giggle can result in police questioning. The big department store, GUM, was a disappointment to most people, except possibly the very rich. It was not like stores in the West. However the building was worth seeing. There was an underground shopping mall opposite which was more user friendly and air conditioned. We went to an evening performance of folk music, showcasing Russian instruments and everyone loved it. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Being children of the cold war, we had mixed feelings about visiting Russia. Needless to say, our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we have a great time on the Viking Kirov, but we updated our image of Russia and the Russian people. ... Read More
Being children of the cold war, we had mixed feelings about visiting Russia. Needless to say, our concerns were unfounded. Not only did we have a great time on the Viking Kirov, but we updated our image of Russia and the Russian people. Plus, we met may wonderful people on the cruise some of whom we'll add to our friends list. As for the ship and the crew, they were very professional and accommodating. The food and service were excellent with plenty of variety including local dishes. The guides were exceptional, all native Russians, mostly from St. Petersburg. Their English was excellent and, along with local guides, they provided us with reams of information about Russian history up to the current day. They were open about their recent history and the transition from Soviet to modern day Russia. After may years of propaganda on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it was refreshing to experience the openness. We were impressed with how clean and friendly both Moscow and St. Petersburg were. You've read about the heat and the smog. That was a challenge but we worked around it, thanks to an air conditioned boat and tour buses. This is an education trip, not one that you kick back and snooze ... although you can to that, but you would miss the best parts. When the trip is over, you brain is full and needs a rest. At least mine does. Not everything was perfect. Viking advertises WiFi. It worked sporadically and when it did, the bandwidth was very narrow. I took my new iPad which does not have an Ethernet connection, which was a problem so I had less access than those with net books or laptops. I wish Viking was fix the connectivity or set expectations better. Several people complained of feeling ill. Nothing serious but certainly took the fun out of the trip. We're not sure if someone brought a virus on board or maybe the ships water wasn't purified enough. Although hand cleansing stations were available, Viking was not as diligent as other lines in encouraging their use. I don't know if that would have helped. All in all, the experience was well worth the money. It gets four thumbs up from us. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Oh, no - cruise was slated for an Amsterdam-Budapest voyage. Had to be rerouted to Rotterdam as a sailing event that takes place every year in Amsterdam consumed all mooring spaces. Something the cruise line failed to let anyone know at ... Read More
Oh, no - cruise was slated for an Amsterdam-Budapest voyage. Had to be rerouted to Rotterdam as a sailing event that takes place every year in Amsterdam consumed all mooring spaces. Something the cruise line failed to let anyone know at the time of booking. A coach trip was not anything we had signed up for - thus, why we choose cruising. On arrival a mediocre dinner was served, which began two weeks of the best meals being purchased off the ship. Quite a disappointment. To compound, the food quality, was the attitude of servers. Seemed most irritated that we were there most of the time. Very regimented, if you asked for 1 egg in morning, you were told, "only do 2 egg orders". Coffee was slow in coming with regularity, so asked for a carafe of coffee for table, told "we don't do that, we serve". Of course, that was only every 15 min or so they "served". Which you would have to find them or flag them down. In there defense, I would say they were understaffed. Cabins were kept clean, wonderful hot water and pressure. No complaints. Beds on the other had were miserable. When stated after first night that we were uncomfortable, were told "all beds on ship the same, nothing can be done". I pointed out their 24 satisfaction policy, and the "hotel manager" said "well it is because the ship is new and the mattresses are not broke in",surely they did not buy the mattresses with that in mind. I suggested they put 4 duvets across our bed with sheet on top, they did and it was better,never really comfortable. One reason being they only have linens in twin for bed,even though it is a king size variation. So every night we got caught up in the sheets, my husband said it was like camping. Not something you would expect in "luxury" cruising. Two of the things I love about cruising - good food and a comfortable bed. Never been disappointed before. This cruise was not the best. Europe, though, is still beautiful and we loved that. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Our twelve day cruise aboard the Viking Kirov was enjoyable. Traveling with friends, we made many memories to share. Our flight to St. Petersburg from Southern California arrived at 10:30 PM, long after our fellow cruisers had retired ... Read More
Our twelve day cruise aboard the Viking Kirov was enjoyable. Traveling with friends, we made many memories to share. Our flight to St. Petersburg from Southern California arrived at 10:30 PM, long after our fellow cruisers had retired for the nite. The first morning, we were up and on the road, off to The Hermitage. Exhausting day with time change, etc. Would suggest that first day in St. Pete be a bus tour of the city to get bearings and general orientation, then The Hermitage second day. We were sooo fortunate to have Victoria as our guide. She was sensational!Well spoken, well-informed, never repeated herself. Even read us Pushkin's short stories while coach was trapped in traffic on the way to Moscow. She is a true gem -- and sensational asset to Viking. Loved the lectures and classes. Learned a lot. Leaving early in AMs was described by up the passageway passengers as "oh, my, another forced march." Would appreciate breakfast service until 9:30 a.m.(for those who choose to stay aboard) -- and more food items on breakfast coffee station (juice, fruit, yogurt, pastries) for self-service. The dining room soups were especially delicious. Felt very rushed and set aside on final nite in Moscow. Passengers attending the (optional) Bolshoi excursion dined early and were sent off to the theater in Moscow. We who remained felt rushed and pressured to dine quickly -- this on our last nite aboard, which we hoped to enjoy leisurely.Food was excellent, service attentive and pleasant.Yes, we'd go on another Viking!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
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